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Research reveals carbon footprint caused by China's irrigation system

London, Wed, 14 Mar 2012 ANI

London, Mar.14 (ANI): China's groundwater irrigation system is responsible for polluting the atmosphere with more than 30 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, a University of East Anglia research has revealed.


Groundwater used for crop irrigation in China has grown from 10 billion cubic metres in 1950 to more than 100 billion today.


A research paper, published today in Environmental Research Letters, estimates that the pumping systems, which support this immense irrigation network, annually produces 33.1 MtCO2e (33.1 mega tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent).


China is the largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, with around 17 per cent of emissions coming from agriculture.


Irrigated agriculture in China produces 70 per cent of the country's grain. But it takes some 500 litres of water to grow the wheat for one small loaf of bread.


Pollution is caused by the huge amount of energy needed to pump water from underground - in some areas from an average depth of 70 meters.


This research is the first to calculate how much pollution is being created.


It is the result of a collaboration between the university's School of International Development, the UEA Water Security Research Centre and the UEA-based Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, with the Centre for Chinese Agricultural Policy, the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences and Cranfield University.


The research team used extensive survey data collected from 366 villages in 11 provinces.


They up-scaled these results to calculate the emissions created by groundwater pumping across China's remaining 20 provinces.


The results account for more than 0.5 per cent of China's total CO2 emissions.


For comparison, this is similar to the total amount of CO2 that the whole of New Zealand emits in one year. (ANI)


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